WADA to launch independent review into Chinese swimmers’ doping case

Anti-doping body responds to criticism, says its integrity and reputation are under attack over handling of the case.

Reports claimed that 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a banned heart medication but were cleared by WADA [File: Marko Djurica/Reuters]Published On 25 Apr 202425 Apr 2024

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has asked an independent prosecutor to review its handling of a case where 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive for a prescription heart drug.

The organisation will also send a “compliance audit team” to China to “assess the current state of the country’s anti-doping program” run by anti-doping body CHINADA.

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WADA has faced criticism since media reports revealed that the swimmers tested positive for trimetazidine (TMZ) – which can enhance performance – ahead of the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, but were not sanctioned after WADA accepted the argument of Chinese authorities that the case was caused by food contamination.

WADA said in a statement that it had asked former Swiss public prosecutor Eric Cottier to review its handling of the case.

“WADA’s integrity and reputation is under attack. In the past few days, WADA has been unfairly accused of serious bias in favor of China by not appealing the CHINADA case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. We continue to reject the false accusations and we are pleased to be able to put these questions into the hands of an experienced, respected and independent prosecutor,” WADA President Witold Banka said in a statement on Thursday.

WADA said that Cottier would be given “full and unfettered” access to all their files and documents on the case and added that he is free to consult with any independent experts as he sees fit.

Cottier has been asked to evaluate if there was any bias shown towards China or “any undue interference or other impropriety” in the handling of the case.

The Swiss lawyer will also be asked to determine if the decision not to challenge or appeal against the verdict of CHINADA, that the cases involved food contamination, was reasonable.

Cottier has been asked to deliver his findings in two months.

The team that will travel to China will also include “independent auditors from the broader anti-doping community”.

WADA said the visit was part of its regular compliance monitoring programme.

WADA Director General Olivier Niggli said: “While not one shred of evidence has been presented to support any of the allegations made against WADA, we wish to deal with the matter as quickly and as comprehensively as possible so that the matter is appropriately handled in advance of the upcoming Paris Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

Beijing has called reports about the case “fake news”.

Australian and British anti-doping bodies demand WADA review

The move comes on the same day as anti-doping authorities in Australia and the United Kingdom called for a review of WADA’s processes.

Both UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) and Sport Integrity Australia (SIA) called on WADA to “initiate an independent review of the regulatory framework and processes applied” in separate statements on Thursday.

“We hope that WADA, by expediting this process, can help ensure trust and confidence is restored in anti-doping worldwide, and clean athletes can continue to be protected and championed,” UKAD said.

SIA said athletes in Australia and around the world needed to have trust in the global anti-doping system and have confidence that all competitions are equitable and that all athletes are treated fairly.

“Sport Integrity Australia has written to WADA directly, seeking clarity around the processes performed in the handling of the case,” it added.

The case has been a sore point in Australia, which banned freestyle swimmer Shayna Jack for four years after she failed a drug test that she blamed on a contaminated supplement.

Jack, who missed the Tokyo Games while serving the ban, saw her suspension cut to two years after an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which found she did not knowingly ingest the banned substance.

The latest statements come after the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) called this week for an independent prosecutor to review the case of the Chinese swimmers.

USADA chief Travis Tygart accused WADA of being involved in a “potential cover-up” and the global anti-doping agency has responded by threatening legal action.

Source: News Agencies